Monday, July 24, 2006

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 4

Here are a few more brief notes on graphic novels I have been borrowing from my local public library. Like most libraries, they don't have everything I would want in this genre, but they do manage to have a nice selection for starters. At any rate, these make for fun readings most of the time; there are one or two that are not as engaging to me, but hey, one has to take chances.

Wilkins, Dave, Kevin Munroe, and Tony Washington. El Zombo Fantasma. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2004. ISBN: 1-59307-284-8

When a Mexican wrestler is murdered after a match, he is given another chance at redemption. El Zombo Fantasma is the greatest and baddest luchador around, used to getting his way. Now, he has to return to L.A. in order to be a ten-year-old girl's guardian angel. However, not all is at it seems, and Belisa Montoya is no ordinary little girl. Some very bad people are after her, and Zombo is on a quest to keep her safe while trying to find the man who killed him. He finds that he has to embrace the luchador traditions of pride and honor to win. This compilation collects the first three issues of the series. I enjoyed the art greatly, and the story was entertaining as well; it ended too soon, so I will certainly be looking for other issues. I do note that the compilation can stand by itself.

Waid, Mark and Barry Kitson. Legion of Superheroes: Teenage Revolution. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1-4012-0482-1

In the year 3000, the world has achieved a utopia where disease, hunger, and other problems have been eliminated. You would think things would then be happy for everyone. But every utopia carries a price, and utter boredom with a lack of problem solving ability have become the order of the day. While the Earth is now part of a planetary alliance, things are peaceful on the surface. Teens seeking adventure and just looking to find themselves rebel. Teen superheroes come together under the Legion of Superheroes facing a future where children are under genetic surveillance, and heroes are all but forgotten. These new heroes are the ones who come to realize that danger is in the horizon, from an enemy no one expects. The premise of a far future is very good, making an interesting commentary on the present. The series features good art as well. Overall, the series makes a solid plot and story that draws the reader in. This series will also have a strong appeal to teens given the way it presents issues of interest to them. This is a good example of the superhero genre as well as utopian science fiction.

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 2. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0-7851-1464-5

The second volume in the Visionaries series, this one collects work by writer and artist John Byrne. For readers who keep track, it collects issues 241-250. Compared to the previous volume I read in the Visionaries collection, this one has a better sense of continuity since the writer and the artist are one and the same. The issues collected were published in 1982, which basically brings back some memories for me. In this issue, the Fantastic Four confront Doctor Doom, Galactus, and the Skrull. This set features appearances by Spider-Man and Captain America. As always, the heroes don''t just rely on their powers, but they use their minds as well. Reed Richards should become a spokesperson for studying science since it is his genius that often helps to save the day. It's an element that I personally enjoy in reading the Fantastic Four's adventures. Fans will definitely enjoy this set.

Miller, Frank. Batman: Year One. New York: DC Comics, 2005 ed. ISBN: 1-4012-0690-5.

Though originally published in 1986, this graphic novel remains as powerful as ever. Frank Miller, with David Mazzucchelli providing the art, gives readers a gritty and engaging retelling of the Batman legend. The story is Batman's first year in Gotham after Bruce Wayne returns from a long exile abroad. The city is corrupted and in need of a hero. James Gordon is a young lieutenant in the Gotham PD trying to walk a straight line in department full of corruption. As his partner tells him when he starts the job, "a cop has it made in Gotham." Bruce Wayne is trained, but he still has much to figure out. By the end of the year, he seems to be settling in, but it will be an ardous journey. This is a great work, giving a good set up for the many Batman stories to come. Personally, I can not get enough of Frank Miller's work. This new issue has new introductions by the author and the artist as well as some art galleries.

Austen, Chuck. Superman: The Wrath of Gog. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1-4012-0450-3

Superman faces Gog, an enemy who has travelled through time with the goal of destroying him. Gog manages to wound Superman, though Superman manages to vanquish him. However, that is not the only problem Superman faces as minions of Darkseid invade the Earth as well as local villains come around looking for a chance to beat a weakened Superman. Superman along the way is helped by some of the Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. A lot of action, but the story is not terribly coherent. At one point, he is convalescing and talking to Lana, and the scenes move to him fighting another adversary. The narrative transitions were not very good compared to other works. For a moment, I thought it was some dream sequence, but it is actually a flashback sequence. Not handled well, thus makes the narrative a bit jarring. A good piece of comics action, but not the best of the Superman comics.

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